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Moral Concerns.indd


Moral Concerns.indd

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									                                     Contents                                                                  Why are these issues so difficult?

                                     Introduction                                                              One of the main difficulties facing women who are trying to sort
                                     Why are these issues so difficult?                                         out these types of issues surrounding their decision, is the social
                                     Is the embryo or fetus a person?                                          ‘taboo’ surrounding them. The social stigma continues to be a
                                     Is abortion murder?                                                       prevalent issue for some women despite recent studies showing
                                     Does the embryo or fetus feel pain?                                       more than 80% of Australians support a woman’s right to choose
                                     Who are you to meddle with life’s awesome forces?                         whether or not to continue a pregnancy. You may not have had
                                     Am I being selfish if I choose Abortion?                                   the opportunity to discuss your concerns, hear alternative views or
                                     Does how I got pregnant affect the morality of my decision?               reassess the relevance and truth of your beliefs. The challenges
                                     Do I have a responsibility to procreate?                                  of adolescence and adulthood are often about reassessing
                                     What obligations do I have to the partner in the pregnancy?               beliefs developed as children and deciding with neurological,
                                     What if what I want to do differs from what others think I should do?     psychological and social maturity whether those beliefs are still
                                     Will I feel guilty or grief stricken after I have an abortion?            valid, relevant and helpful. You may have approached someone
                                     Can anyone help me make my decision?                                      or an organisation to discuss your pregnancy and been criticised
  THE ABORTION DECISION:                                                                                       or judged harshly for considering abortion as one of your options.
 MAKING THE DECISION WHEN            Introduction                                                              They may have also given you information to dissuade you from
                                                                                                               finding out anything further about abortion. This type of experience
 YOU HAVE MORAL CONCERNS             For some women, facing an unplanned or unwanted pregnancy                 can be quite shattering and undermining and may have led you to
                                     and decision about whether to choose the option of abortion or            doubt your self and to question things you would normally not have
                                     not can be particularly difficult because they have moral concerns         a problem with. It may be important to speak to someone who is
                                     about terminating a pregnancy or about being the person who is            not judgemental, concerned about you and who can provide you
                                     responsible for making that decision.                                     with accurate information and support.

                                     These concerns sometimes centre on whether or not the pregnancy           Linked with the ‘social taboo’ and stigma that exists about abortion
        21 Belmore Terrace           is a human life, person or baby already. You may be concerned that        is the prevalence of abortion myths. You do not want to make this
                                     aborting the pregnancy is taking a life, will inflict pain on the embryo   decision on the basis of misinformation and unrealistic fears. To
                                     or fetus or will mean you have committed a sin.                           work out your beliefs and make a decision that you feel comfortable
      Woodville Park SA 5011                                                                                   with, you need accurate information. The Pregnancy Advisory
                                     These moral concerns may or may not be linked to religious                Centre, Shine SA and Women’s Community Health Centres are
       Phone: (08) 8243 3999         teachings, may be based on your own experiences of pregnancy,             all places you can access unbiased accurate information.
                                     abortion, miscarriage or child birth, or may reflect either accurate
        Fax: (08) 8243 3998          or misleading knowledge gained from the experiences of friends,           “Semantics” is another thing, which can make thinking all this
                                     family, media or Right to Life (anti choice) organisations.               through difficult. Semantics is to do with the words we use and
                                                                                                               the meanings they evoke. Because abortion is rarely discussed
                                     These moral concerns may have been a part of beliefs, ideals or fears     it can be difficult to find words which accurately reflect how we
SA Country FREECALL 1800 672 966     developed in childhood/adolescence, which may have never been             view things. Some women have no other word to described the
                                     revisited as an adult or young adult. Alternatively they may represent    pregnancy other than “baby.” Think what the word baby actually   beliefs well thought out during adulthood but never actually tested by    implies- a full term, born, human being. This is not an accurate
                                     the realities of personally facing an unplanned/unwanted pregnancy.       word for a pregnancy, which is of very early gestation (embryo)
                                     It is not unusual to see women who feel confident in saying they           or even later on in the pregnancy (fetus). Using alternative more
                                     support a ‘pro choice’ stance, has a list of legitimate reasons for       accurate words, for example talking about “the pregnancy” rather
                                     not continuing a pregnancy, but she is not sure whether an abortion       than “the baby”, can evoke very different feelings and ideas about
                                     would sit right for her. It is also not unusual to see women who          abortion.
                                     support a ‘right to life’ stance but who see their own circumstances      Another difficulty facing women who are trying to sort out these
                                     as necessitating an abortion.                                             moral concerns is the time limit imposed by the pregnancy
                                                                                                               gestation./ Reassessing beliefs and circumstances and working
out strategies to deal with conflicts usually takes time. Relative        Apparently the only passage in the Bible that even approaches a            process is in abortion would be any different to when a pregnancy
to other important life decisions, an abortion decision generally        discussion of abortion is Exodus 21:22 which states that if two men        miscarries?
has to be made in a quicker time frame than other decisions.             are fighting and wound a pregnant woman, they shall have to pay her
Nonetheless, even an extra week taken to think through and               husband a fine if she has a miscarriage, but they will have to give a       There are no definitive answers to these personhood questions.
address issues in a constructive way can be extremely helpful.           life for a life is she herself dies.                                       But for you to reach a decision you feel comfortable with, you
                                                                                                                                                    may have to work out what you believe. You may find it helpful to
Another difficulty can be the importance and unknowable nature            Is Abortion Murder?                                                        think about the pregnancy using words, which do not imply any
of the answers to some of these questions. Some women often                                                                                         degree of personhood.
feel that the moral issues mean that in order to make the decision       It could be argued that two things make the taking of life murder.
they find themselves asking, “what is the meaning of life?” or at         First, the life taken has to be the life of a person. Second the taking    Does the embyro/fetus feel pain?
least “what is the meaning of my life and what do I want to do with      of a person’s life must be unjustified. We do not call killing an animal
it?” This is pretty profound and difficult stuff!                         murder. We do not call a surgeon a murderer when she/he operates           The latest scientific/medical research agrees that prior to
                                                                         on a person and removes part of the human body. Although it could          approximately 29 weeks gestation, a embryo/fetus cannot
This information sheet tries to address the difficulties mentioned        be argued that it is human life that is being taken (because everything    experience pain the way that fully developed people experience
above. It provides alternative views which women, their partners         that is part of a human being is human life) it is not the life of an      pain. The development of the brain cortex is not a functional unit
or significant others may not have heard before, and hopefully            individual human person. When people call abortion murder, it often        until this stage. Studies indicate that (cortical, subcortical and
stimulates the type of thinking necessary from some women                says more about how they feel than about what it is.                       peripheral) centres necessary for pain perception do not begin
to satisfactorily decide whether to continue or terminate their                                                                                     developing until early in the second trimester. Reflexes only
pregnancy.                                                               Some people make the distinction that in an abortion it is not the         are present from 14 weeks, the (thalamocortical) connections
                                                                         intention of a woman to end the life of the embryo/fetus, but rather to    necessary for the perception of pain may start to form from around
Is the Embryo/Fetus a person?                                            withdraw her bodily support from it. They say that a woman has no          17 weeks but are not established until 26-34 weeks gestation).
                                                                         more of an obligation to provide such support for the pregnancy than
Approx 90% of terminations occur in the first trimester that is           a man or woman has an obligation to give an organ to a dying relative      Researchers also consider that children and adults come to
before 12 weeks gestation. Some people believe that from the             or stranger to save their life.                                            a conscious appreciation of pain through a developmental
moment of conception, the pregnancy is a person. (We do not                                                                                         process, which an embryo/fetus has yet to experience. Pain is
                                                                         If you really believe that the pregnancy is a person, you may then need    a multidimensional experience reliant on the senses, memory,
know exactly when the moment of conception is. Is it when the
                                                                         to think about the relative value of the lives (yours, your children’s,    feelings, learning and cognitive brain functions.
sperm cracks into the egg or six days later when the fertilised
                                                                         partner’s, parents, any children you have in the future), you may
ovum embeds into the lining of the uterus or is it at some other
                                                                         be putting at risk, or impacting significantly on, if you continue the      Furthermore, it is important to recognise that when a woman
stage?) Others believe that prenatal and even post natal life has
                                                                         pregnancy versus that of the current pregnancy. Perhaps it is this         has a termination of pregnancy under anaesthetic it means the
to go through a specific event of development before it can be a
                                                                         information that helps you to make and accept your decision.               pregnancy is anaesthetised as well.
person, such as:
  • When it becomes viable, that is when a fetus can survive             Even if you believe that prenatal life becomes a person at conception or
    outside the woman’s body (generally not possible until the third     very early in the pregnancy, remember that prenatal life is completely
    trimester/ or more than 25 weeks).                                   different to other forms of life. You are a being whose personhood
  • At quickening, that is when the first foetal movement can be felt     is not in doubt and who may be harmed in mind or body if forced to
    (generally between 18-20 weeks gestation).                           carry the pregnancy to term if its not what you really want. Your self,
  • When the head or greater portion of the fetus has been born          your partner, parents or children are persons, and you may feel it is
  • Once the woman makes a decision to continue the pregnancy.           legitimate to give greater value to their needs and rights than to a
  • When God infuses or breathes soul into the embryo, fetus or          pregnancy.
    baby.                                                                On a spiritual and philosophical level, one may question whether it is
                                                                         possible to ‘kill’ something that has never been born. If the defining
In the views above, the pregnancy may involve a precious, beautiful
                                                                         characteristic of being a person is having a soul or spiritual aspect,
form of life, but it is not a person until one of the events described
                                                                         then one may consider that by definition the soul is beyond time
above occurs. The majority of people in society believe that while
                                                                         and place and cannot die. The soul would know beforehand what
it is important to value life in the womb, it is wrong to attach a
                                                                         is to occur and would either return to the spiritual realm and wait for
value of prenatal life that is equal or superior to the personhood
                                                                         another ‘vehicle’ or return to being part of a larger spiritual/cosmic
and sacred character of the woman who is pregnant.
                                                                         Whole. Perhaps it is legitimate to question how whatever the spiritual
Who are you to Meddle with Life’s Awesome Forces?                     If men were the ones who got pregnant, chances are that abortion            Do I have a responsibility to procreate?
                                                                      would be a guilt free, health enhancing, socially endorsed, government
Although your pregnancy may be unexpected and upsetting,              funded, respectable choice.                                                 Not every possible person can be born into this world. We who exist
you may also experience it as a pretty amazing and special                                                                                        might cherish our lives and be grateful for the process that brought
achievement. You may be in awe of the miracle of pregnancy.           Studies have suggested that more than one in four pregnancies end           us to be. This does not mean that we must become pregnant as
You would not be alone in thinking that perhaps it was ‘meant         in miscarriage. Many of these pregnancies are planned, wanted and           often as possible or see every pregnancy to term in order to show
to be’, that is, that because you are pregnant you are therefore      healthy. Why is it okay for God, Mother Nature, Fate or whatever other      our appreciation and love of life and our acceptance and love of
meant to continue the pregnancy. Should you meddle with such          force that you may hold beliefs about, to choose to terminate these         the children we do bear. Indeed many people now are concerned
powerful forces? What will be the repercussions?                      pregnancies but it is not ok for you to choose if you have legitimate       about world over population and view limits on procreation as the
                                                                      and responsible reasons for not continuing a pregnancy. If God and          right and moral choice.
In regard to the pregnancy being ‘meant to be’, maybe it was          religion play a significant role in your life you may want to ask yourself
meant to be, but perhaps you were meant to face the decision          what sort of God you believe in. One who believes you are committing        No one is obligated to bear a child for people with infertility
and decide to terminate the pregnancy. Perhaps the pregnancy          a sin and condemns you, or one who is forgiving and compassionate           problems, no matter how much they desire a baby or what good
is a catalyst for you to reassess your life goals and make some       and recognises and accepts that you are doing the best you can and          parents they would make, or how sorry you may feel for them.
changes in your life. Its also important to consider in what other    are making a responsible and moral decision.                                You are under no obligation to take responsibility for and try to
ways do we use the idea of ‘meant to be’ in our lives. Do we                                                                                      solve the numerous misfortunes and predicaments life deal other
ever hear of people saying for example when a child accidentally      Am I being selfish if I choose Abortion?                                     people- especially if it means forfeiting your own respect and
drowns in a swimming pool or a loved one dies in a car accident                                                                                   caring for your own life.
‘meant to be’?                                                        This type of question can be where we confront semantics again.
                                                                      Selfish is a word, which seems to mean something bad. Being selfish           Choosing to forgo childrearing after bearing a child, through
When other events happen in your life that threatens your sense       is when a person acts exclusively in her own interest without regard to     adoption, is an extremely difficult thing for a woman to do.
of security or life goals do you just sit back and say “what will     the rights or feelings of others. Few women have an abortion because        Relinquishing a child for adoption is also a significant life choice
be will be” or do you do something about it? No doubt when            they are selfish. In fact having a baby can be just as selfish as having      that has the potential to create ongoing complex and challenging
you get ill you seek medical treatment, when you have wanted          an abortion if entered into without due consideration of your own and       feelings. This view denies that fact that in seeking an abortion
something you worked towards getting it. In other areas of your       others rights and needs. You may consider whether you in fact have          a woman wants the pregnancy terminated as well as the role of
life, you make decisions and regain control. In the face of an        a positive moral obligation as a person to consider yourself. Rather        motherhood.
unplanned pregnancy, you have the right to regain control of          than using the word “selfish”, perhaps it is more realistic and helpful
your life in any way you choose. Indeed some might say that           to use terms such as “self-valuing”, “self care” or “responsible self       What obligations do I have to the partner in the pregnancy?
it is your responsibility to make your life the best that you can.    interest.” It is only by being concerned about yourself that you can
                                                                                                                                                  Sexual relations do not necessarily form a relationship.
Some people consider that abortion is one more option along           become a full person and be a good parent, friend, partner, citizen-
                                                                                                                                                  Insemination does not automatically create fatherhood. If you are
the continuum of active fertility control measures, which include     the true mark of unselfishness.
                                                                                                                                                  not in a stable relationship you have no moral obligation to consult
abstinence, barrier methods, hormonal contraceptives such as
                                                                      Does how I got pregnant affect the morality of my decision?                 the partner in the pregnancy or to consider his preference that you
the pill, the emergency contraceptive pill, Implanon, IUCD’s, RU
                                                                                                                                                  continue the pregnancy or choose to terminate the pregnancy.
486 and surgical termination of pregnancy.
                                                                      A single adult woman, young woman, married woman, all have at
                                                                      different levels a moral decision to make when facing an unplanned          If you are in a stable, committed relationship, it may be important
Historically and currently there are various social pressures on
                                                                      pregnancy. The morality of abortion is not determined by how a              to discuss the decision together, but you are still the best person
women to be controlled by their fertility rather than the other
                                                                      woman became pregnant. Pregnancy or choosing to parent should               to decide whether involving your partner is the best choice for you
way around. If a woman cannot control her fertility, cannot know
                                                                      never be considered a penalty. Child bearing is not a punishment            or not. Sometime a man might feel in a ‘no win’ situation. If he
when she may be pregnant again, cannot know how many and
                                                                      for sexual intimacy. It is a voluntary and loving commitment to bring       expresses what he really thinks, you may feel he is pressuring you
when or if she will have children, she has very little chance of
                                                                      a new person into the human community. Having an abortion can               or telling you what to do. If he tries to “be supportive” you may feel
having any order or predicability in her life. She has very little
                                                                      be the most appropriate choice following the whole spectrum from            alone in the decision and that he has dumped the decision in your
chance of pursuing anything other than child rearing. Fertility
                                                                      safe or accidentally unsafe to non-consensual or traumatic sexual           lap. Listening, understanding and working as a supportive team
control, including abortion is a feminist issue. Many institutions,
                                                                      encounters.                                                                 are not necessarily easy.
including religions, have had a vested interest in maintaining
women’s dependence on men and in restricting their access                                                                                         The pregnancy decision may bring you closer emotionally when
                                                                      Fertility control and human relationships are complex and
to opportunities to contribute to society in any other way but                                                                                    you meet the challenge of the crisis together. Or it may bring into
                                                                      unpredictable. There are 200,000 unplanned pregnancies (40%) in
childrearing. Women have been encouraged to feel guilty about                                                                                     focus problems in your relationship that may need addressing.
                                                                      Australia every year.
having sex, using contraception and about having an abortion.                                                                                     Ultimately the decision is yours. Research and clinical experience
show that understanding, validation and emotional support from            Church officially and openly takes a pro-choice stance.                     given all of their circumstances then.
your partner or other significant people in your life will ease
the load for you, both during the decision making and after the           Will I feel guilty or grief stricken if I choose to have an abortion?      Predicting how a woman will cope post abortion is not an exact
decision has been made.                                                                                                                              science. We will do all that we can to provide you with the most
                                                                          Research indicates that the majority of women feel relieved after          up to date and accurate information, the opportunity to discuss
What if what I want to do differs from what others think I should         having a termination. The pregnancy was the crisis and the abortion        any concerns you may have and strategies or refer you to other
do?                                                                       provides them with the opportunity to regain control of their life.        support agencies you may find helpful. It is quite common for
                                                                          Accompanied with relief, some women can also expect to experience          women to express relief at having a supportive and objective
Whether other people are being well meaning or self-serving,              some ‘normal’ feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger or grief and loss at     person to discuss these issues with. Ultimately it is up to you to
they may pressure you to choose to continue the pregnancy or to           being in a situation where they had to make a difficult choice. A small     make your own decision, one that it is best for you.
terminate the pregnancy. Women tend to take into consideration            number of women however, experience some negative feelings,
other people’s feelings much of the time and are often taught to          which can range from a mild experience of ‘mixed feelings’ to longer-      Can anyone help me make my decision?
look after the needs of others before their own needs and be self-        term depression and distress (5-10% of women).
sacrificing. Sometimes a woman presenting with a unplanned/                                                                                           The best decision is ultimately the decision you make. However,
unwanted pregnancy has never had to make an important decision            Research and clinical experience indicates that there are generally        that does not mean that you must make it without any assistance.
for herself before. All of this may impact on how women usually go        clear risk factors for developing some of the more long-term difficulties   It may be helpful to seek out counselling related to any or all of
about making a decision and can make it very difficult to ensure           after abortion. These risk factors include: being coerced/ forced/         the areas above, as you feel the need. Morally, you may feel
that you are making a decision that is right for you, and to feel that    pressured into having an abortion; strong and abiding feelings of          better knowing that you did all you could and sought out whatever
it is OK for you to be the one making the final decision. It is crucial    ambivalence; holding strong beliefs morally/ spiritually that abortion     resources you required in order to make a responsible decision.
to your future well being that you own the decision and do not            is wrong and having previous or current mental health or psychiatric       The goals of counselling is to assist you to come to a decision
make it solely to appease or please other people. You are the one         difficulties.                                                               which you can feel most comfortable with, and to direct you to
who has to live with the consequences more than anyone else.                                                                                         any other resources you might find helpful now or in the future.
                                                                          Some women may appear to have one or some of these risk factors            Counselling may also be helpful in assisting your partner, man
Although you may feel that you have to do as others say, if you           at some stage during their decision making. However, with accurate         involved or parents reach a better understanding about your
would really prefer to carry your pregnancy to term or alternatively      information, the opportunity reflect on their circumstances and feelings    feelings and wishes, how they can provide you with the most
you really feel you should terminate the pregnancy, it is crucial that    and to try out various helpful strategies, many of these women can         helpful practical and emotional support both during you decision
you are creative and realistic in working towards your preferred          resolve these concerns and progress to making a decision they feel         making and afterwards. It might also be important for your
option. No matter how you became pregnant, what your age or               comfortable with and with which they will cope well. The upheaval          partner/man involved to feel that his feelings are understood and
health, it is your right to decide to bear a child and it is your right   of an unplanned pregnancy may even in hindsight be viewed as a             to work out various coping strategies he can use so he can more
to decide to terminate a pregnancy. No one should force you to            maturing and positive experience.                                          confidently and supportively approach your decision making and
have an abortion, just as no one should force you to continue                                                                                        its consequences.
                                                                          The small number of women who continue to display one or more of
a pregnancy. Because of the serious commitment involved in
                                                                          these risk factors for post abortion emotional difficulties, may need       Adapted with permission from Susie Allanson, Clinical Psychologist,
bearing and raising a child, the decision to continue a pregnancy                                                                                    Fertility Control Clinic, Victoria, 1998.This paper also acknowledges
                                                                          to give greater consideration to continuing the pregnancy. This might
may also be a moral one in that you would consider and evaluate                                                                                      and thanks: “Abortion- A Guide to Making Ethical Choices: How to
                                                                          mean they also need to implement strategies, which will make this          Make a Moral Decision” by Maguire & Maguire, Catholics for a Free
your circumstances realistically and responsibly. The right to                                                                                       Choice for some ideas used is this paper.
                                                                          easier, such as ongoing therapeutic contact or have support services
choose is a two way right. You can be making a good and moral
                                                                          in place. It is important to recognise though that counselling cannot
decision even if it seems no one else agrees with you.
                                                                          magically make you feel better, or remove the problems that may
According to Catholics for a Free Choice, Catholic belief maintains       exist, it can take considerable work and emotional energy.
                                                                                                                                                                              For further information contact:
that you commit a sin if you go against your conscience even              For some women who experience significant post abortion difficulties,
if what you are doing is objectively wrong. You are not guilty            it may be a reflection of their generally difficult life circumstances,                           Pregnacy Advisory Centre
of committing a sin if you follow your conscience, even if other          or other challenging life events, which predate the abortion, rather                            21 Belmore Terrace
people consider our action wrong. Within the Catholic Church, if a        than the abortion itself. However, because of the social stigma and                             Woodville Park SA 5011
woman makes a moral, conscience directed decision to have an              myths surrounding abortion, women can sometimes start to feel that
                                                                          the abortion is the cause of any problems they may be having. For                               Office Hours:
abortion she is not excommunicated, there is no requirement to
                                                                          some women, time can distort their view. Once the pregnancy crisis                              Monday to Friday 8:30 am - 4:30 pm
tell it in confession and no sin has been committed. Progressive                                                                                                          Phone: (08) 8243 3999
Protestant, Catholic and Jewish thinkers hold that it can be a            is over, they may be tempted to think that they could have or should
                                                                                                                                                                          Fax: (08) 8243 3998
moral decision for a woman to choose abortion. The NSW Uniting            have chosen to continue the pregnancy. It is crucial that these women
                                                                          recognise that at the time, they made the best decision they could,                             SA Country FREECALL 1800 672 966

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